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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Conditions of service for teachers working in early childhood and school education


9.Teachers and education staff

9.2Conditions of service for teachers working in early childhood and school education

Last update: 27 November 2023


Teachers at all educational levels in the public educational system have the status of public employees (Government Employers Act) although they are employees of the municipalities, in case of the ECEC and compulsory school teachers 

The professional status of teachers and head teachers is supported by various legal acts which specify the professional rights of these groups. There are provisions in the law as to what kind of educational credentials a person must have to use the title pre-primary school teacher, compulsory school teacher or upper-secondary school teacher.

Working conditions for teachers are regulated partly by law and regulations, partly by various agreements between trade unions and the government. The details of the conditions of service working in public and private ECEC settings and in compulsory schools (primary and lower secondary schools) is formally determined in laws and regulations and contracts at central level, but realized locally in municipalities and individual schools. The legal framework for qualifications and hiring of teachers is primarily based on the  Act on education, qualification and hiring of teachers and school heads of pre-primary, compulsory and upper secondary schools (Act 95/2019), The Upper Secondary School Act, The Compulsory School ActPre-primary Schools Act and the Government Employees Act.  Collective wage contracts that the Icelandic Teachers' Union makes with the state and The Association of Local Authorities in Iceland serve as model for most all wage contracts in the private and public school system. Currently there is no formal planning policy on teachers supply and demand. At the horizon, such planning policy is needed as supply of teachers is not meeting demand, especially as the teacher population is aging and graduating classes of teachers are smaller than the annual group of retiring teachers.

 Entry to the profession

A person who wishes to teach at a compulsory and upper secondary school must meet the qualification requirements that are specified in the Act on education, qualification and hiring of teachers and school heads of pre-primary, compulsory and upper secondary schools (Act 95/2019). If those conditions are met and application procedures are met, a qualified teacher is granted a letter of accreditation by the Minister of Education and Children. The Directorate of Education administers the accredidation process. 

As a rule “open recruitment” procedures are used for teachers. The posts are announced in newspapers and municipal bulletins. In compulsory schools (primary and lower secondary education) the respective municipality office is responsible; in case of private school with consent of the school provider. This does not apply for school-heads on compulsory level and for teachers on upper-secondary level where the State is the employer and thus responsible for appointments in consultation with the school board. There is a tendency towards a self-governing system for schools in the disposition of financial resources, in consultation with the municipality office for hiring of teachers at pre-primary school and compulsory level schools. 

According to the framework legislation for pre-primary and compulsory school level, personnel working with children are to be qualified teachers. In case of a shortage, exemptions may be applied for but only for a temporary appointment. Non-qualified teachers are hired on a one-year basis. Temporary appointment can also be applied for qualified teachers if necessary. 

Qualified, accredited teachers usually are granted a contract (after a short trial period) that does not specify the length of their employment but entails, as for other professions, a mutual three-month notice period. 

Pre-primary and compulsory school teachers are employees of the municipalities, employed either to teach at a particular school or are appointed to teach at schools in a given municipality. Upper secondary school teachers are employees of the State. They are employed to teach at a given school and are hired by an open recruitment procedure.

Supporting measures

There are no special formal support measures for teachers in schools, but it is determined locally by municipalities and individual schools. The induction programs can be organized at the individual workplaces in order to support the newly qualified teacher in practical matters.

Induction and supporting measures for new teachers in their first post are under the process of being more formalized. Formal structures phase of support to new teachers after finishing initial teacher education is not customary. Some municipalities and some secondary schools, though, provide such support for novice teachers informally. The support may consist of formal/informal meetings to discuss progress or problem areas, advice, information and informal feed-back, assistance in lesson planning and pupil appraisal. In some cases, new entrants teach less than other teachers during their first year of teaching. 

Qualified mentoring processes are in some schools to assist the professional development. It may be organized at the individual workplace, individually organized or in groups. Upper secondary school teachers are entitled at least 80 hours/year for independent professional development. Compulsory school teachers have up to150 hour/year independent professional development. Pre-primary school teachers have also access to professional development as part of their position; it is though not quantified.


The Government Employees Act contains articles concerning dismissal. It is however very rare that public employees are dismissed, and it may be said that in most cases only gross neglect in the employee’s discharge of his or her work would lead to dismissal. If a public employee is suspected of gross neglect, the employee may be temporarily suspended while the case is investigated, and during that time the employee retains half of the teacher's salary and is fully reimbursed if the investigation leads to the conclusion that there were insufficient grounds for dismissal.  


Teachers' salaries depend primarily on the type of position and on seniority.

The negotiating committees of the member associations of the Icelandic Teachers' Union negotiate contracts for salaries and working conditions for their members in pre-primary schools, compulsory schools and upper secondary schools. The salaries of compulsory teachers are paid according to a wage-contract that is negotiated between the Icelandic Teachers’ Union and the Association of municipalities. The salary system contains a few predominant components, among which are professional qualification of the teacher, the various professional titles within the school and the professional development of teachers, salary funds in the school, which the school head allocates according to workload and competence of teachers and salary-scale increments according to teachers’ age and professional experience. Special payments are made for certain tasks, assignments and responsibilities. 

Head teachers of compulsory schools are put into pay groups based on the number of pupils at their schools. Teachers at the upper secondary level are state employees and as such are subject to negotiations concerning salaries and benefits between the State Negotiating Committee and the Teachers' union.

Upper secondary school teachers belong to the Icelandic Teachers' Union. There are various salary groups that upper-secondary school teachers can be placed into. Placement depends on teachers' education, both initial education and further education and professional qualifications. Special payments are made for certain tasks and assignments. 

Head teachers in the upper-secondary schools do not belong to the teachers' unions. Their salaries are determined by a special committee, depending partly on the size and complexity of the school in question.  

The negotiating committees of the Association of the Icelandic Teachers' Union negotiate contracts for salaries and working conditions for their members in pre-primary schools, primary, secondary, and music schools. 

Working time and holidays

Pre-primary school teachers work a 40-hour week. Preparation time is intended for making work plans, meeting parents, analysing behaviour patterns and preparing field trips. The length of pre-primary school teachers' summer holidays varies from 24 to 30 working days, depending on age or years of employment. 

The yearly workload of Compulsory school teachers is 1,800 hours which is comparable to other professions, although their work is divided into fewer weeks because of the time frame in which compulsory schools operate, i.e. nine and a half month a year. 

The school year for compulsory school pupils is 180 days. Each school decides when to start and end the school year, i.e. within the period 20 August to 10 June. 

According to collective agreements, compulsory school teachers shall have 8 days accumulatively for preparation before the formal school year commences and after formal school year ends. Furthermore, teachers shall have 5 preparation days during the year.

Teachers’ working time is according to the wage-contract: 

Full-time teaching: 26 lessons per week (40 minutes) 

55 years old: 24 lessons per week (40 minutes) 

60 years old: 19 lessons per week (40 minutes) 

The yearly workload of upper secondary school teachers is 1,800 hours. The Upper secondary schools operate nine months, the school year normally running from 22 August to 31 May. As a rule, there are 145 teaching days a year, and 30 days are set aside for examinations or in total 175 days in the period of 9 months , lus 4 extra days outside regular 9 months period.​

Under the wage-contract between the state and the Teachers’ Union, upper secondary teachers work 40 hours per week. The workload is divided into, for example, work at school under the head teacher's supervision, teaching and teaching-related work organised by the teacher himself, work during the six examination weeks, and professional development outside the school year (70 hours). 

Promotion, advancement

There is no formal system of promotion for teachers at the ECEC or compulsory school level and opportunities for promotion within the teaching profession are scarce. Pre-primary school teachers can advance in their profession by applying for more senior posts, such as that of a department supervisor, assistant head teacher, or a head of a pre-primary school. They can also become pre-primary school representatives, working for one or more municipalities. Advisers and deputy heads in ECEC and compulsory schools are almost invaribly professional teachers who, particularly in case of administrators, continue to have responsibility for some teaching. 

There is no formal system of promotion for a compulsory school teacher. Formal administrative training is not a prerequisite for these posts. Each municipality appoints head teachers after receiving proposals and references from the school board. 

Mobility and transfers

There are no formal transfer or rotation schemes for teachers at any level of the educational system. A pre-primary school teacher is hired by the municipality to a school. As there is a great demand for pre-primary school teachers in all municipalities, it is easy for pre-primary school teachers to transfer from one pre-primary school to another within each municipality, if they so wish.  Compulsory school teachers who wish to transfer to another school in another municipality can apply for a position that has been advertised at that school. If a teacher wants to be transferred to another school within the same municipality, he or she must apply to the municipality for a transfer. 

Upper secondary school teachers who wish to transfer must apply for a position at another school. 

Retirement and pensions

Pensions for pre-primary school teachers are comparable to those of compulsory, upper-secondary and higher education teachers, although ECEC as well as compulsory school teachers are employed by the municipalities they belong to the  pension fund of the civil servants. This means that a monthly deduction depends on the size of the salary, paid to the pension fund of civil servants. The general retirement age is 67 years. Teachers are covered by special agreement which gives them the right to reduced workload with higher age.  In general, employers pay into the fund of cicil servants for 32 years for a "full pension" which is around 65% of their full-time salary. Teachers may decide to teach until the age of 70.